Long After Fathers
Roberta Rees’s novel, Beneath the Faceless Mountain, set in the Crowsnest Pass, received the Alberta New Fiction Competition and the Writers Guild of Alberta Novel Award. Her first book, the poetry collection Eyes Like Pigeons, won the national Gerald Lampert Award and the Writers Guild of Alberta Poetry Award.
Her work has been published in anthologies, and numerous magazines and literary journals. A 30-minute film, Ethyl Mermaid, based on the story by the same name in this collection, debuted at the Herland Film Festival in Calgary.
She was born in New Westminster, BC, and grew up in Calgary and in the Crowsnest Pass – Bellevue, Blairmore, Coleman, Cranbrook. She has lived in Calgary since 1972, working mainly as a school teacher and now as a creative writing instructor.
From the author:
Grace Paley once said that she writes only what she has to. My understanding is that she was not referring to publishing deadlines or any other outside commitments and pressures. What I take her to mean is that she writes only those stories that compel her, that insist she tell them.
This is how I would describe the impulse behind the stories in Long After Fathers. I had to write them. They would not let me be. The characters – irrepressible Jessie with her fast fists and boundless generosity, Jessie’s daughter Rosalind with her quirky observations on people and events around her, Rosalind’s friend Solange with her need to transform herself from a pitied, overlooked girl in the mountains into a desirable city woman-inhabited me for years, even when I was writing other books.They spoke, sang, danced, rode horses, injected a dying mother with epinephrine to try to keep her alive, narrated stories about girls and mermaids who can fly, walked hot thoroughbreds on the race track.Passionate and feisty, these are characters I could not ignore, could not control.In order to capture their rhythms, I had to simultaneously get out of the way and pay attention.
There is a certain harshness in these stories, too, that I needed to tell, sometimes tempered by music or poetry or humour, sometimes not. The harshness of poverty and pre-Tommy Douglas healthcare, when a doctor refuses to make a house-call because the family cannot pay him.The harshness of constant threat of war on impressionable children.The harshness of industrial boom-times, when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.The harshness of coal-mine explosions, death and loss. A progeny of working-class families myself, I wanted to let the characters’ strengths and dignities transcend harshness and tragic circumstance to show that these people themselves are anything but tragic. Long After Fathers is intended as a tribute to some of the amazing people from the working-class communties where I grew up.